Die Hard Arcade (Saturn) Review

Behold! Most likely the only Sega Saturn review to go up on this blog! Yes, I own a Saturn, but I brought it at a car boot sale roughly 15 years ago, so a good while after it was still relevant. It was super cheap and had a few games with it, among them were two Saturn exclusives that I always wanted to play: Fighting Vipers and Die Hard Arcade. I remember seeing this game in magazines at the time and being extremely jealous of Saturn owners getting a 3D (!!) beat ‘em up, and with the Die Hard license no less! Was it worth the wait? Erm… sort of? Let’s take a look at the first 3D entry in this marathon!

Background:

This isn’t a multiplayer screenshot, by the way… the rocket launcher guy came out of the lift looking in that direction…

Die Hard Arcade was released, well, in Arcades in 1996, though in Japan it was called “Dynamite Deka” and featured “Bruno Delinger” rather than John McClane, all because SEGA didn’t have the Die Hard license for Japan like they did the rest of the world. It was ported across to the Sega Saturn in January/February 1997 across the world, with the same regional differences. Japan got a PS2 re-release in April 2006 that was then made available for download on their PSN on August 22nd 2012.

A direct sequel was released in Japan called “Dynamite Dekka 2”, also free of the Die Hard license, and that was ported to the US and Europe as “Dynamite Cop”, but that’s for a couple of weeks’ time!

Gameplay:

I’d say taking out three people with a single kick is quite the success, sure…

Despite being on a 3D plain and all the characters being made of polygons rather than pixels the game is still very similar to earlier parts of the genre, and I mean EARLY parts of the genre as there aren’t any grapple moves, just punches and kicks, though there are some different combos at least. You can pick up a variety of weapons however, from brooms and fire extinguishers to guns and rocket launchers to large items like grandfather clocks, plus health pick-ups of course. It also has to be said that this isn’t so much a “scrolling” beat ‘em up as it is a … QTE transitional beat ‘em up? Basically you enter and room with some thugs to beat up, maybe a connected sider room or corridor, and then your character starts running to the next area, during which a QTE pops up, if you get it right you move on the next area, miss it and you either fight an extra room of thugs or just lose some health. I dislike QTEs with a passion, but mostly in games that overuse them (or have long cut-scenes of nothing but them…) Here it’s pretty harmless.

That’s pretty much the whole game. Area to area, QTEs in the middle, and then the odd boss fight (plus if you’re playing 2-player and make it to the end the two players then fight each other as only one can appear in the ending…). It’s fun though, even if it’s a little bit… clunky, sometimes. Given it’s among, if not the first of its kind I can excuse that. It’s also quite short, given it’s a direct Arcade conversion with nothing added beyond a one-life go at the classic Sega Arcade game “Deep Scan”, which can net you extra lives.

As for genre clichés? Well, it does have some overweight enemies (two bosses anyway) and some questionably dressed women enemies, but it lacks a lift level! Admittedly it has a level in a non-moving lift and a section where you climb a lift shaft while avoids lifts going up and down, but it doesn’t feature the cliché lift level!

Graphics and Sound:

Fire engine high jinks! That’s what I like to see in my Die Hard games!

The graphics are early 3D polygons, though it is a little smoother than some of the super-blocky early games, I guess owing to it being an Arcade game first. No doubt it looks rough now, but any early 3D effort looks rough now. The explosion effects mind you are pretty poor, even for the time…

Sound is fine. The music is generic and unmemorable, but gets the job done, especially the music that plays when it’s QTE time. Sound effects are fun and cartoony and the few voice clips are hilariously bad.

Story:

I don’t know what’s weirder: the shape of his head or the size of that phone!

Although it’s called “Die Hard Arcade”, this isn’t an Arcadey version of the first Die Hard film. Instead a criminal known as “White Fang” has kidnapped the President’s daughter and taken over a building that looks a hell of a lot like Nakatomi Plaza from the first film, but presumably isn’t. It’s up to John McClane and his cop partner Kris Thompsen (or “Bruno Delinger” and “Cindy Holiday” if you’re playing the Japanese version, no idea why they changed the game-only female cop’s name as well!) to save her and take down the odd mix of terrorists (seriously, one of the bosses is a laser-firing Spider robot…)

They of course do kill all the terrorist and save the President’s daughter (and then inexplicably fight each other to decide who gets her … full attention?) As a story it… gives you an excuse to beat up a large amount of people in a tall building with a man that vaguely looks like Bruce Willis if you squint. Hooray!

Thoughts Then:

You know I’d love to see actual McClane’s reaction to this situation…

While I’m sure I would’ve been head-over-heels in love with this game had I owned it in 1997, in the mid-2000s it was … fun, the weapon variety especially, but by that point I’d already played better 3D beat ‘em ups, and even this game’s sequel in Dynamite Cop, so I didn’t play it much past a few days… It was fun enough though.

Thoughts Now:

Hey, it’s sort of a lift level!

Now? Much the same really, well apart from the headache of trying to get the Saturn emulator to play properly (my modern TV has no way of playing the Saturn without me buying some fancy kit, and I just don’t have that many Saturn games to justify it…) It’s fun for an hour or so, then you either complete it or die, either way you don’t fancy giving it another go…

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